Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sun Exposure - Moderation is key

How do you view the sun? Not literally, of course, but figuratively.  Do you view sunlight in a positive or negative light (pun intended)? Often, when hearing the words sun exposure, some think about it negatively in terms of their health and wellness. Some try and avoid sunlight to prevent potential health risks, but one widely overlooked fact, is that humans need to absorb sunlight and metabolize it, just like plants need it to grow and thrive. Now, just like with most things, sun exposure is great in moderation. The health risks associated with sun exposure are very real and should be taken seriously. However, that doesn’t mean that sunlight isn’t also beneficial in healthy, moderate doses and with the right precaution. Some scientists even say with moderate sun exposure, the benefits outweigh the risks. With Spring having just arrived, and the sun shining longer, it’s important to talk about how beneficial it is to absorb that sunlight.
 The relationship between humans and sunlight is not as forthcoming as one would hope. There are many different factors to consider such as, skin tone, genetic composition, even the climate you live in – but let’s not get into all that nitty gritty. If you’re concerned, or interested in that, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your specific, individual needs. Onto the good stuff – I’ve laid out a few of the more significant benefits of basking in the sun’s rays.
            Sun exposure heightens cognitive function. When we’re absorbing the sun, we’re not just getting a tan, we’re absorbing and metabolizing one of the most important Vitamins we need to be at our healthiest -  Vitamin D. Recently, scientists have linked the presence and need of vitamin D in hour brains. One study performed by neuroscientist David Llewellyn at University of Cambridge linked the levels of vitamin D to the cognitive function of 1700 men and women. They found that low levels of vitamin D lead to reduced cognition. There was also evidence that vitamin D increased growth of nerve cells around the area of the brain associated with memory.
            Sun exposure lowers hypertension. Unfortunately, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a disorder that many of our society suffer from.  There are many ways known to help lower blood pressure such as diet, exercise and even seeing a chiropractor. But one commonly unknown fact, is that sunlight also helps to regulate blood pressure. A study out of the University of Edinburgh found that the moment your skin is exposed to sunlight, a compound called nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream that helps to reduce the pressure in your arteries. Think about it – by decreasing your blood pressure you are essentially prolonging your life by decreasing the chance of heart disease and strokes.
            Sun exposure strengthens your bones. The vitamin D we absorb from the sun plays a major role in the body’s ability to absorb bone strengthening minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. As a child, if we don’t have enough vitamin D in our system, a disorder known as Rickets can occur which is a bone softening disorder. Rickets’ counterpart in adults, is known as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. By just being out in the sun for twenty to thirty minutes, we can greatly reduce these risks and keep our skeletal system – our foundation, strong and sturdy.
            Sun exposure can help with depression. Right off the bat we know that lack of sun exposure to the body can lead to a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is far more common during the winter months, which consist of shorter days and more cloud cover, and is also seen in those that work long hours and are void of sunlight. Sun exposure isn’t just beneficial for those with SAD, but helps non-seasonal depression, as well. When sunlight travels through our eyes and hits specific areas of the retina, it results in a release of Serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant produced by the body that can effectively lift our mood.
            Sun exposure can help with various skin conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO), has stated that exposure to the suns’ rays can help certain skin conditions. For many, doctors have been recommending UV radiation for skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and even acne. Although these benefits are shown to help certain cases, WHO also notes that it’s on a case by case basis and not beneficial to everyone.  If you think you may be a candidate for this type of treatment, I urge you to speak to a dermatologist to make the appropriate decision based on the risks and benefits for you, specifically.
            So, what is considered moderate sun exposure? The general rule of thumb, is approximately 15-20 minutes of sun on the face, arms and hands, about three times per week to receive the healthy benefits of sun exposure.  Since there are risks associated with excessive sun exposure, it’s important to protect your skin if you’re going to be in the sun far more than what is considered moderate. So, if the cooler is packed and you’re hitting the beach for the day – pack the sunscreen. No matter how tan you already are, or how under-exposed you are, and are trying to make up for lost time…pack the sunscreen. Trust me. Excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer – don’t put yourself at risk if you can take preventative measures. Bottom line – in moderation, and with the right protection, sun exposure can be extremely beneficial, both mentally and physically.

This is only a short list of the benefits medical professionals have linked to sun exposure and vitamin D. To reap the benefits of sun exposure, the skin must be able to absorb it, which is prevented by wearing sunscreen. Therefore, it’s so important to allow yourself that moderate sun exposure, while still taking the appropriate precautions. Remember, the amount of vitamin D produced and absorbed depends upon your location, skin color, and genes.  So, get outside! Enjoy the sunlight, soak it up, and be safe!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Headaches and Chiropractic Care

As headaches are one of the most common reasons for seeking the help of a doctor, it’s safe to assume that everyone reading this has experienced the pain of a headache at one point or another. There are many types of headaches that can happen either occasionally, or on a more frequent basis – known as chronic headaches. The levels of intensity can range from a dull ache to a debilitating pain throughout the entire head. Whether they occur a few times per year, or a few times per week – the focus is to stop it as soon as possible.
Today, our first thought is to grab a medication - usually Aleve or Advil, to make it through the day. These medications can give us temporary relief from the pain, but in the bigger picture they only mask the pain until the medication wears off.  Think about how often we take these medications when a headache comes on. They numb the nervous system to stop the pain, which is convenient, but they also have adverse effects on the liver and kidney. The biggest issue with these pain medications – they don’t fix or correct the cause of the headaches.
Headaches are a common complaint from the patients of Chiropractors. In the neck runs a vast array of nerves, vertebrae, blood vessels, and joints. When any of these are compromised, there is potential for a headache. These can be compromised from daily habits such as bad posture, immobility, stress and more. A chiropractor is specifically trained to address issues that can cause most types of headaches. There are several routes a chiropractor can follow to help patients cope with their headaches. Under the care of chiropractors, patients will undergo a thorough examination to determine the cause and proper treatment of the individual’s headache.
            Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are a safe and effective treatment for headaches, even if the headache isn’t occurring at the time of the visit.  These adjustments are a great preventative measure for potential headaches in the future.  A 2011 report published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that chiropractic care helps improve the outcomes of people suffering from cervicogenic headaches – a headache that begins in the neck. Not only that, but in 2001, Duke University published an article stating that spinal manipulation resulted in almost an immediate improvement for those with headaches originating in the neck. It also offered significantly fewer adverse effects and longer lasting relief of tension-type headaches than most commonly prescribed medications. With significantly fewer side effects, we shouldn’t need much more convincing in considering alternative treatments to medication as a short and long term solution.  
            Treatment through chiropractic adjustments is not general – each case is different and is treated as such. The thorough evaluation allows chiropractors to determine the right course of action based upon the patient’s lifestyle. While relief sometimes occurs instantly, it can also take longer in certain cases – it could be hours, days, or weeks, dependent upon the cause of the pain. Typically, it takes longer to feel relief from chronic headaches than the dull and less frequent cases.
            Headaches shouldn’t be considered normal – each one has a cause, we just need to find it.  Overall health and wellness is our number one goal as chiropractors. We want to get our patients to a point where they’re in a position that prevents headaches from disrupting their daily life. Headaches are awful – no one likes them. So, here are a few tips that help ease the pain of headaches when they occur…
·      Use a soft-gel ice pack. The cold pack forms to the head to help alleviate pains.
·      Immediately avoid loud noises and bright lights. This is also a potential trigger, but can greatly increase the intensity of the current headache.
·      Periodically, gently massage your temples and back of the neck to help ease any tension and/or discomfort.
·      Stress is a major trigger for headaches and increases in pain. Removing yourself from stressful situations can allow you to find a way to cope and ultimately prevent headaches.

·      Placing heat on the base of the neck will help relax the muscles running to the head, decreasing tension.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Workplace Ergonomics

The concept of Ergonomics wasn’t something that we often thought about until recent years. Now, more than ever, individuals in the workforce find themselves spending their days working at a desk on their computer. This has led to the growing interest and conversation around Ergonomics and its benefits. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what it is or don’t understand how it applies to them, and there are some who don’t necessarily believe in its importance. The goal here is to raise awareness and, hopefully, peak interest in those who could benefit from Ergonomics in their work place.
So, what is Ergonomics? Ergonomics is the process of making your workplace more functional, productive and healthy by positioning yourself in better alignment with the equipment you’re using. What wasn’t widely known for a long time, and in some instances still isn’t – that poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to an environment of disorganization, frustration, low functionality, and can result in an overall poor work environment. In this scenario, workplace risks are higher than ever, and can lead to many physical issues including, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and spinal issues. By improving workplace ergonomics, you can effectively reduce, if not remove, the risk factors leading to these injuries, and in turn, kick start the effectiveness and productivity at work. If you’re a business owner, think about if your employees were operating with high functionality, in a happy and healthy work environment. This type of environment is typically seen in companies in the top echelon of competitiveness within the market.
Poor Ergonomics. There are many risk factors to be aware of that promote poor ergonomics, leading to some of the risks mentioned above. Three critical factors that often get overlooked are repetition, poor posture and intense exertions on a task.
·      Repetition – When we think of repetition in the work place, we don’t necessarily think of it as being negative. If we do the same motion repeatedly, our bodies will become accustomed, and we’ll even get better at it. Think of the concept “practice makes perfect”.  While this may be true to some extent, when combined with other risk factors, which it often is, it creates a scenario that can drastically increase the development of a physical injury or ailment. As mentioned before, carpal tunnel is a common injury in those who repeatedly use a keyboard and mouse, as it causes tension and strain in your wrists.
·      Poor Posture – Often, we see people showing poor posture far more than proper posture. This puts quite a deal of stress on our joints, muscles and tendons. If poor posture is sustained for long periods of time, or even becomes chronic, the likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal disorder increases greatly. One such issue on the rise is Lower Cross Syndrome - a muscle imbalance in the lower back and hips, often causing severe low back pain. Combine a repetitive motion with poor posture and its sure to have a negative impact on the body.  
·      Exertion – When we exert an excessive amount of force into our work, it increases the demand on the body’s joints, muscles and tendons. This constant demand increases fatigue and the likelihood for serious injury. This risk could result in decreased mobility, inability to work, etc.
 Improving Ergonomics. The first step to improving your ergonomics is to evaluate your workstation. Whether it’s a typical desk with computer, or whichever spot you can find Wi-Fi on your laptop, there are a few simple aspects to consider getting you started: back and torso straight and against the chair, hands to your device, feet on the floor and keeping your eyes level ahead of you. With an overwhelming amount of options, it can be difficult searching for the right chair or piece of equipment, so here are a few things to consider:  
·      Chairs – It should offer an option for height adjustment, a tilting back and provide lumbar support.
·      Monitor – Your monitor should have the ability to tilt and elevate so it’s at eye level, and have contrast and brightness control, which most do.
·      Laptop – Using an external mouse and ergonomic keyboard are beneficial for posture when using for long periods of time. It’s important to take regular breaks and change posture.
·      Headset – If you spend a lot of time on the phone, using a headset will help prevent muscle tension from holding the phone to your ear.  
·      Desk – It should have elevation control, going from a seated to standing desk, with plenty of room to spread out your work to avoid cramping.
Improving ergonomics in the workplace should be viewed as a positive, healthy change. Like most things, it’s more effective when it’s a team effort, providing support and encouragement in promoting this type of environment. Talk to your friends, coworkers, bosses – the more people invested, the more effective it will be. Improving ergonomics can promote safety in the workplace, decrease employee turnover, and improve the quality of productivity. Overall, the best benefit is that you’re ensuring the health and wellbeing of yourself and your co-workers. With all the praise from those who use ergonomics, and with such great return on investment, it seems well worth the effort in exploring it for your workplace. Promoting health and productivity in the workplace should be a constant, not a trend.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, is a form of cardiovascular exercise where one engages in short, quick intervals of high intensity and low intensity exercises. This cycle is alternated until the body becomes too exhausted to continue. These sessions are based on what your endurance level is at the time; the first few sessions will pass quickly, but as your endurance rises, so will the duration and intensity of the overall sessions. So really, there’s no specific plan or equation that you must follow when you start your HIIT routine.
A great starting point to gauge your individual level is to think of the ration; 2:1. So, for every minute of high intensity intervals, it’s thirty seconds of low intensity intervals. If you’re not in the best shape or lack endurance, your starting point can be simple. Don’t push yourself too hard from the start and risk burning out. Your starting point can be as easy as sprinting for 40 – 60 seconds, followed by a light jog or fast walk for 20 – 30 seconds. These interval sessions typically last anywhere between 15 – 45 minutes, making HIIT the perfect workout for those with an already full schedule. It’s a great way to maximize your workout with limited time.
HIIT has been shown to help decrease the level of body fat more effectively than the more common workout combination of cardio and weight lifting. This training method varies the output demand on your body, so it becomes difficult for the body to grow accustom to a certain routine which often results in a plateau that can lead you to feel stuck in your progress. But just like all great workout routines, fat loss is a byproduct of increased exercise and a healthy diet. The benefits of HIIT expand further than just weight loss and can provide many improvements in your overall health. Here are five benefits of HIIT, a few of many reasons why your body will thank you! 
Great for heart health. Let’s be honest, it’s quite difficult to reach an anaerobic zone, where you’re breathing is heavy and your heart is pounding. With interval training, you’ll find it easier to push yourself to reach that level because of the short durations. Your heart is a muscle that’s constantly working twenty-four seven; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and the more effective it becomes in pumping blood throughout the body. By increasing your cardiovascular health and endurance, you effectively help your body fight against cardiovascular disease or metabolic diseases such as; high blood pressure, obesity, coronary artery disease, heart failure and more.
Increase your endurance. Interval training at such a high pace causes your body to adapt at a cellular level. The cellular structure and efficiency of the muscles play a huge role in endurance when performing not just these exercises, but throughout your day to day life. Better endurance allows you longer workouts, more walking, and more stairclimbing, without becoming winded and out of breath. There’s an article in the Journal of Physiology stating that those who embarked on an eight-week interval training plan ended up doubling the length they could bike for while pushing the same pace.
Boost your metabolism. HIIT does a serious number on your metabolism, in a good way. The American College of Sports has said that interval training significantly increases your oxygen consumption in comparison to a regular workout routine. What this does on an internal level, is causes your metabolic rate to increase from about an hour and a half to two hours after a workout. This means it causes your body to continue burning calories at a faster rate for a longer period after a workout. It also helps reduce insulin resistance, allowing your body to better regulate your blood sugar levels. For those that are diabetic and pre-diabetic, this is great because it helps prevent drastic spikes in the sugar levels.
Energy use. Alternating from high intensity to low intensity, the body is forced to learn how to use its energy more efficiently. I’m not just talking about feeling more energized and awake during the day, I’m also talking about the internal environment regulated by your body. Your body will better remove waste from your muscles and blood long after your workout is finished. Your body will better coordinate when and where to use your stored energy, inside and outside of your HIIT sessions.
Easy to do anywhere. One of the best parts of HIIT, is it can be done anywhere. All it requires is you, your body, and your determination – making this training method cost effective, and time-friendly. This is one of the few truly effective exercise routines that can be done at home, helping to avoid travel time to the gym, which is probably crowded anyway.  If you’re constantly traveling for work, or even pleasure, HIIT is the perfect exercise for you to complete in private, no matter where you are.

HIIT is one of the best ways to get your body and life back in shape. The fact that it’s so effective, doesn’t require a lot of time, and can be done anywhere – should be reason enough to at least consider. Am I right? I know finding motivation can be the toughest part in exercising, so being able to roll off your couch a hot mess at the start of your workout should be getting you PUMPED. No pressure of your appearance at the gym, or driving all the way there, just you and your workout. Once you become more comfortable and make some progress, you can switch it up with a visit to the gym or a park. Remember, your training should be combined with eating clean to provide your body with the best foundation to reach the results you not only want, but deserve. Regardless if you’re seasoned or a beginner, HIIT will challenge your body and continuously push you to a better and healthier life.